Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Interesting Perspectives on Depression

I'm reading a book called "Comfortably Numb: How Psychiatry is Medicating a Nation" and the author has some very good, very valid points. I've noticed more and more how our current lifestyle here in America seems to be adversely affecting a large amount of our population, and it's interesting that the only "treatment" usually offered to those who are feeling depressed, disappointed, or unhappy with their lives is to be given an antidepressant.

I suffered from major depression years ago and had to go through numerous antidepressants to find one that really worked for me. But it wasn't until later that I started to recognize that my lifestyle and thought patterns were the biggest problem for me. The medication helped to get me up out of the dark pit of depression, but it was changing my thoughts and my lifestyle that really brought me to a point where I could feel the joy in life again. I have been off of antidepressants for years now and although there are times I feel "depressed" or low, and things seem bleak, I now have the tools to lift myself up out of it and work my way through whatever I'm facing. I've learned that if I exercise regularly (usually 4-5 times a week), pray and read scriptures daily, and look for ways to help others rather than focusing on myself I am much happier. For the majority of Americans I don't think it takes a miracle drug to feel happier ... I think it takes turning to God, being connected with other humans, and reaching outside of our self to overcome. (There will always be some who are severely depressed and will require medication and other treatments to get to a point that this can apply to them as well.)
I think the following section from "Comfortably Numb" really explains clearly how we've gotten to where we are today in terms of mental illness and "depression:"

"...there is ample evidence that over the last two decades numerous forces have been causing Americans to be ever more isolated, under pressure, and emotionally entitled. In short, miserable.
This is a new kind of American misery- there have been others: civil wars, world ward, economic depressions, recessions, malaise. But current forces are creating a new kind of "misery index," beyond the fiscal one invented by the Yale Economist Arthur Okun in the 1970s: Economic Misery Index=Unemployment Rate + Inflation Rate.
Here's my take on the new Misery Index:
Emotional Misery Index= Isolation + Pressures to Be Happy + Pressure to Turn Inward
I would contend that it is the forces of isolation and pressure to turn inward and not any truly diagnostically valid form of depression that are driving the vast majority of [people] to look at themselves in the mirror in the middle of the night, wonder when things are going to get better, and reach for their Prozac.
... Isolation is of course a critical factor. Social connectedness is highly correlated with well-being; conversely, isolation is highly correlated with rates of mental illness and distress. Isolation causes depression, and depression causes isolation. ... Martin Seligman... believes that rampant individualism, and the isolation associated with it, is perhaps the leading cause of the epidemic of depression. 'In the past, when we failed, as fail we must, there was spiritual furniture to fall back on for consolation. Our relationship to God, our patriotism, extended families, community... Systematically, in the two generations in which depression has increased so drastically, we've seen waning of all these spiritual furnitures.'"

I really believe in the power of God and the human mind to overcome and triumph in life. I know from experience that when we're on the right path and are living our lives for more than just self-gratification we are happier and healthier. It's a shame to see how far our society has strayed from the time-tested pillars of a happy life: God, family, community, and service. It's time to get back to being happy. It's a choice, not a random fluke in life!

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